Ecology and Anthropology in Tanzania

20 May 2020

One of the five areas of emphasis for each of the Carleton Global Engagement Programs is the design and implementation of meaningful field research projects. Ecology and Anthropology in Tanzania (EATZ), the most recent addition to the Global Engagement Programs, presents an opportunity for Carleton to create student field research projects in Tanzania that are team-based and community-focused.

Ecology and Anthropology in Tanzania embraces the idea of reciprocity in off-campus study by developing Independent Student Projects (ISP) that give something back to the areas and communities where the program is involved. By developing projects that are relevant for their resource management needs and objectives and can be repeated or expanded on an annual basis, our work will have greater long-term impact. Students gain experience working with projects that have real-life implications. We will begin by collaborating with our local partners to identify core research foci that have benefits to the partner community. These broad project foci will facilitate investigation of both the ecological and anthropological aspects of a given topic. Each year’s students will build on the research done by students and local partners in the previous year. In this way, student field research will contribute to a larger body of knowledge that is relevant to the needs of the local communities.

As a starting point, we envision partnering with a community which is in the early stages of a rangeland reclamation project. Tanzania’s pastoral rangelands are facing an environmental crisis from compounding factors of loss of land to agriculture which leads to intensified grazing impacts, and increasing climate variability with longer and more frequent droughts. The droughts add to the loss of ecological resilience in these systems. This manifests in a complicated interaction of human and ecological factors involving desertification, increasing competition with wildlife, loss of productive soils, and invasion of exotic plants. In turn, local people respond by supplementing with agriculture, altering livestock herd sizes, grazing patterns, disease management and livelihood diversification. Communities are seeking to practice improved grazing management and restoration of pastoral lands, but lack the resources to get started and then to monitor the success of their interventions.

Field research carried out by Ecology and Anthropology in Tanzania students under the direction of the faculty director and regional experts will be a valuable resource, and has the potential for significant impact on rangeland reclamation projects. Students will design their team-based ISPs to investigate various ecological and anthropological aspects that are important to the reclamation project’s success. Students will incorporate their individual skills and interests into the ISPs while building on the work of previous student teams and forging the path for future student research teams. Potential ISP projects that could arise from such a focus would be:
1.    Analysis of soil moisture and nutrient profiles in recovering rangelands
2.    Response of herbaceous and woody vegetation to grazing exclusion
3.    Bird, insect or mammal diversity in managed and unmanaged grazing lands
4.    Community perceptions of long-term environmental change
5.    Socio-economic factors as predictors of engagement in natural resources management
6.    Gendered views on land management practices
7.    Livelihood diversification in changing environments

We look forward to sharing updates on the field research conducted on Ecology and Anthropology in Tanzania in the coming years! Please contact Dr. Anna Estes, faculty director, for more information.